Artist Profile Paul Bower
(2019 Winter Solstice Concert in Albuquerque – Paul is second from the left in the back row/photo credit: Michael Tait)
by Linda Marianiello, Executive Director, NMPAS
Baritone Paul Bower has been an important member of the New Mexico Bach Chorale for about 6 seasons! He is one of the young New Mexico artists, who completed his masters at UNM-Albuquerque and emerged as a professional singer at a young age. In fact, Paul had already assembled quite a lot of professional experience prior to coming to New Mexico in the late 1990’s.
Paul is originally from Cincinnati, Ohio. He started singing very early. His parents said that he was already singing as a toddler. But his training officially began in 1984, when his public school music teachers recommended him for the Cincinnati Boy Choir at age 10. This marked the beginning of his love for music, which has lasted for his entire life.
In his senior year of high school, Paul says that “things came together” in his mind, and he decided to pursue music in college. He initially began as a Music Education major, but then added a vocal performance degree later on. His bachelors is from Northern Kentucky University in Highland Heights, which is located just across the river from Cincinnati. Her earned his bachelors in 1997 and had a really great experience there. The music program was strong then and has remained so.
Paul came to Albuquerque in 1997 to study with Marilyn Tyler at UNM. For those of you unfamiliar with Marilyn Tyler, she is a legend among singers in New Mexico, and had a stellar career prior to teaching at UNM: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marilyn_Tyler
Although Paul had never spent time in the West, he was really attracted to this part of the country. UNM made him the best offer – his teaching assistantship allowed him to get his masters for free. In addition to being involved with the opera program at UNM, Paul was also able to perform in the Santa Fe Opera’s Educational Outreach Program. He pointed out that these programs really help emerging artists “to polish their performing skills before young audiences.” The performing opportunities that he had through the Santa Fe Opera’s Educational Outreach Program were very formative for him and have stood him in good stead throughout his career.
When he finished his masters in 1999, Paul moved immediately into full-time professional work. He has also been with New Mexico Young Actors since 2004. The first 10 years were as Music Director, and he took over a Executive Director in 2015.
A bit about New Mexico Young Actors … Paul says that the organization has a 3-pronged offering: education (drama and introductory acting classes), musical productions, and play productions for young people, ages 9 to 19. They perform mostly for school children. Musicals in Albuquerque’s KiMo Theatre attract audiences of 3,000 children or more. They take their plays on tour to elementary schools and the occasional middle school. In addition to Albuquerque, they have done run outs to Grants, Los Lunas, Cuba, and a number of New Mexico Pueblos. In order to participate in these outreach activities, the kids who perform in their plays miss 3-4 days of school per academic year. NMPAS soprano Esther Moses Bergh has brought her 2 children to a number of New Mexico Young Actors’ shows.
Paul met his wife Ling at UNM. He was teaching a voice class and needed a pianist. She was assigned to his class. They worked together at the university and, subsequently, at a church where they were both involved in the music program. They were married in 2001 and have 2 daughters, Audrey (almost 13) and Kate (9).
In addition to singing with NMPAS each season, Paul regularly performs with Opera Southwest. His first lead role there was as Coyote in the 1999 production of “Coyote’s Music” by New Mexico composer Alan Stringer. He has been singing with OSW for 21 years now! Other roles with Opera Southwest include Marullo in Rigoletto, Mazzetto in Don Giovanni, and Chognard in La Boheme.
In all, Paul has done over 40 opera and musical theater roles, a number of them more than once. He also lived in San Diego and sang with the San Diego Opera in the Young Artist Program, including the role of Figaro in Barber of Seville. He was in the Des Moines Opera Young Artist Program, as well, and has sung with other regional opera companies, including El Paso Opera.
“I am in a happy place professionally right now,” Paul says. He’d like to continue doing opera roles, including ones that are new to him. He has no plans to leave New Mexico: his family and work are here. He loves singing with NMPAS, both for music of J. S. Bach and in our opera programs, and with Opera Southwest.
Regarding the COVID-19 crisis, Paul feels lucky that his wife Ling works as a pharmacist. She is still employed, whereas many people in the arts are not. He was fortunate that most of his singing work for 2019-2020 took place prior to mid-March. But his standard Easter engagement was canceled, and the NMPAS Season Finale Opera concerts are up in the air. If NMPAS postpones our 2020 opera concerts, due to COVID-19, Paul will be especially grateful for the support of fans of NMPAS who contribute to the Artist Relief Fund, he said.
He mentioned that his theater group has been even more profoundly affected by this health crisis. As with most arts organizations, this will be a down year for New Mexico Young Artists.
Paul hopes that we can get through the COVID-19 emergency soon and that we won’t have to prolong social distancing for any longer than necessary. He admits that humans a very social by nature, so this is hard on everyone. Whereas it’s necessary in order to keep people safe, he says that it’s not a comfortable situation. And like many NMPAS artists, he wants to return to performing live concerts as soon as possible.